Maiden Lane terminus

The Maiden Lane terminus was provided as a temporary passenger station at King’s Cross to capture traffic for the Great Exhibition, an international exhibition that took place in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park from 1 May to 15 October 1851. The line between Maiden Lane and Peterborough opened in August 1850. Low fares, used by the GNR to promote its services stimulated a high and irregular volume of passenger traffic.

Six million people (equivalent to a third of the entire population of Britain at the time) visited the Great Exhibition, with a peak attendance of 109,915 on 7 October. The event made a surplus of £186,000, used to found the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum.

Queen Victoria’s departure to Scotland from a special platform on the arrival side of the Maiden Lane terminus on 27 August 1851 is its only existing representation (Illustrated London News, 30 August 1851, courtesy SSPL/NRM). It confirms what had been described as a light and elegant iron roof. The public viewing platform, seen on the left, appears to have been created from temporary works that carried spoil across the canal from the permanent station site. The spandrels on the east side are all that now survive of the temporary station. A train on the North London Line is seen in the distance beyond the arrival shed.

 Archibald Sturrock, Locomotive Engineer of the GNR, was the driver of the royal train. One can surmise that the two officers greeting the royal family are Edmund Denison, the Chairman of the GNR and Seymour Clarke, the General Manager.

While Queen Victoria had her own carriage, and a train for her entourage, others could also avoid the company of members of the public by paying for the rail transport of their carriage and horses. This was how the Iron Duke rode the Iron Road a few months before his death on 14 September 1852. The Duke of Wellington embarked from the temporary station, his carriage rolled onto an open carriage truck. Only partly protected from the elements, his mode of travel suggested how strongly averse he was to sharing a railway carriage (Railway Magazine, 1900, courtesy Institution of Civil Engineers).